FRAUD WARNING – BE AWARE OF COPYCAT FRAUDSTER WEBSITES POSING AS A LEGITIMATE INSTALLMENT LOAN PROVIDER.
Counterfeit online lending websites claiming to be legitimate installment loan providers will collect your personal information via what seems like a valid application process.
Unfortunately, most people do not realize that these websites are likely imposters until it is too late. These scammers build and market websites that claim to offer loan services. The sites convince people to share personal information, but instead of delivering the needed money, they take confidential information and sell it for their own profit or sell it to a loan aggregator and shop your personal information to the highest bidder. You may think you are taking a loan from Company X, but in reality, your information was sold to, and your installment loan was originated by, Company Y.
Online fraud affects millions of people in the U.S. each year, so to help we've compiled a list of consumer fraud protection tips to help you keep your information and money safe.There are generally two different goals for online imposters:
- Collect your personal information to access to your banking information, or worse, to directly access your money. Many of these fraudulent websites are complicated global networks that are often difficult for authorities to track, locate and shut down.
- Convince consumers they’re a legitimate brand, gain your trust to input your personal information, then sell that data to the highest bidder.
Here's what you need to know in order to protect yourself from online lending fraud:
- When searching for an online loan provider, be sure that the site is secure; if the website starts with https://, it’s a secure site. The “s” at the end indicates a secure site, if don’t see that “s”, the site isn’t secure.
- Read the footers of the email. Although the site may be branded as a particular website, often the footers at the bottom of the webpage give an indication that it’s an imposter site.
- If you suspect an imposter site, conduct an online search. The FTC recommends that as a consumer, you “type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like ‘review’, ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’. You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams”.
- Consider how you repay a loan. Automated Clearing House (ACH) and Remote Check Capture (RCC) are common practices utilized by online loan providers. This process has greater protection than wiring money because you and the loan provider are dealing directly with your bank. Wiring money or using gift cards is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Reputable installment loan providers won’t require you to repay using these methods.
- Be aware of phishing fraud. Delete email and text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.). Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email or text and if they do, this is a red flag indicating a potential for online fraud and identity theft.
How Can You Verify You Are On A Legitimate Installment Loan Website?
Website imposters will often add hypens (-) or underscores(_) to a website name or add words to the end of the company name, or change from “.com” to “.net” or “.org”. Make sure that the URL you are visiting matches that of the company you are looking to work with by taking the following steps:
- Verify with the company. If you have doubt, call the Customer Service number listed on the website. Ask for their specific website address and where they are located. You may also use your preferred search engine to search the company name and see if the sites “match”.
- Look for a physical address on the website. See if the physical address exists. Sometimes you’ll see a different address or no address at all. This may be an indictor of an imposter site. Even if you see a physical address, use Google™ Maps to find an image of the address; if it’s a vacant lot or a residential address that’s an indicator it’s an imposter site.
- Look for misspellings and grammatical errors. Many of these online loan imposters’ websites contain spelling and grammatical errors.
- Don’t Pay Upfront Fees. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), if a lender requires you to pay upfront fees to qualify for a loan, it may be a scam. Often the up front fee is positioned as “insurance to guarantee the loan” or “processing or paperwork fee.” You may be asked to pay an application, appraisal or credit check fee. Legitimate sites will not ask you to pay that up front; generally the fees are deducted from the loan amount. Asking for an upfront fee to guarantee a loan is illegal in many jurisdictions.
- Look for Hidden Fees. When you accept an offer, make sure that the loan company has listed all of the fees. The Truth in Lending Act requires that all fees are fully disclosed before you sign the loan agreement. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask before signing. A legitimate company will happily answer all your questions prior to signing.
- Avoid Lenders Who Require You to Provide Them with a Prepaid Credit Card Number. Never provide prepaid credit card information to a lender. Legitimate lenders will typically request a bank transfer or remote check that can legally be tracked.
- Avoid Sites That Look Like Scams and Relatively New Sites. If a site looks like a scam, then it probably is.
Unfortunately, it seems personal loan scams and imposter sites are on the rise, thus consumers should be informed on how to avoid them. The scammers are looking for easy targets so know the warning signs to a personal loan scam.